Climate Change, Energy Policy and Party Affiliation in the United States

A new study from George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication, Politics & Global Warming: Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and the Tea Party (2011) provides some interesting insights into the perceptions of the different political factions in the United States and their respective attitudes toward climate change and energy policy making.  The study involved a nationally representative survey of 1010 adults in April and May of this year, with each respondent asked whether they identified as a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Other, or No Party, or a member of the Tea Party.

Among the key findings of the study:

  1. While majorities of Democrats (78%), Independents (71%) and Republicans (53%) believe that global warming is occurring, only 34% of Tea Party members believe that warming is happening;
  2. 62% of Democrats attribute most of global warming to anthropogenic activities, while only 43% of Independents, 36% of Republicans, and a mere 19% of Tea Party members concur; overall, only 46% of those polled concur with this statement
  3. While a majority of Democrats say that the heat waves of the summer of 2010 bolstered their belief in global warming, solid majorities of Republicans and Tea Party members somewhat or strongly disagreed. On the other hand, a majority of both Republicans and Tea Party members said that record snowstorms last winter somewhat or strongly reduced their belief that global warming was occurring;
  4. While a majority of Democrats (55%) say that most scientists thing that global warming is happening, majorities of Republicans (56%) and Team Party members (69%) say there is substantial disagreement among scientists;
  5. Tea Party members are much more likely to say they are “very well informed” about global warming than other groups, and that they do not need “any more information” on the topic;
  6. While majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans support an international treaty to cut carbon dioxide emissions, a large majority of Tea Party members oppose a treaty, with a whopping 55% strongly opposed;
  7. While majorities of Independents, Republicans, and Tea Party members support building more nuclear power plants, only a majority of Tea party members would support building nuclear plants in their own neighborhoods;
  8. Majorities of all four political parties support funding more research into renewable energy sources and providing tax rebates to people who purchase energy efficient vehicles or solar panels. However, while majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans support renewable portfolio standards of 20%, even if it costs households $100 a year, a majority of Tea Party members oppose these policies;
  9. Majorities of all four groups support local regulations requiring new homes to be more energy efficient, and increasing the availability of mass transportation;
  10. Majorities of all four groups say that protecting the environment either improves economic growth and generates jobs or has no effects in either context.

This would be a good reading in any course that focuses on climate change policy. It might be interesting to break students up into groups to draft messages that would resonate with the various political factions and/or would seek to find common ground.

 

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